Today’s Thought & Prayer is supplied from the weekly Advent Oasis service, happening on zoom on Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm. Please plan to come to this brief (15-20 minute) gathering. Here are the coordinates:
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View the 3rd Sunday of Advent service on JOY
Tuesday, December 14
In the chapters and verses prior to this Advent Oasis reading (John 16:16-24), Jesus has been teaching the disciples to prepare for what was coming next – his arrest and crucifixion. The two main themes in this passage are sorrow and joy.
Joy is a small word but is a feeling that there are no words to describe. Joy is not simply being happy. Think for a moment what it will be like when this pandemic is over and we can all be together again and we can hug during the peace. True joy is having that feeling all the time.
In verse 16 Jesus tell his disciples that in a little while they won’t see him but in a little while they will. What? Wait a minute. One of the saddest things to hear, for me. is a friend saying “I am leaving” or “I am moving away. Even though you may stay in touch their leaving changes things. In essence this is what Jesus is saying, and just like those friends who move away, the relationship is going to change. The disciples are confused. These dudes were still hoping that Jesus would mount some sort of military operation and oust the Romans. It wasn’t that long ago that they entered the city of Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna and cheering crowds. Why was Jesus talking about leaving now? The disciples wanted Jesus with them. He was their rabbi, teacher, and friend, they had given up their livelihoods to follow him. His leaving would cause a huge void. Telling them but in a little while after that you will see me only confused them more. Of course, we know Jesus was speaking of the resurrection.
Jesus knew his disciples were confused but his response is not to simply fill in the blanks of what was going to happen but rather to explain how they would feel throughout it.
Jesus acknowledges that they will be sorrowful – not just a little sad – but totally overcome. He goes on to say that the world will rejoice. Here is referring to pharisees and those others who viewed Jesus as a troublemaker and an instigator. They would be saying Yippee, we have got rid of him, we don’t need to worry anymore – WRONG!
Finally, in verse 20, we get some good news – their sorrow will turn into joy. He goes on to give an illustration of this. I have often wondered why Jesus chose to compare the birth process to how sorrow will turn into joy when speaking to men, but I guess it is the miracle of new life and the joy that everybody feels at the event even if you weren’t the one suffering through labour.
Granted there will always be people or circumstances that seem to take away our joy. But that is not the joy Jesus is talking about. The joy Jesus is talking about is the joy we have because we know Jesus and have invited him into our hearts. That joy can not be taken away from us even though we sometimes lose sight of it. This is the Joy that came down at Christmas
Octavius Spencer, a 19th century preacher, summed up joy with these words – I apologize for non inclusive language but this is a quote from the 1800’s:
The religion of Christ is the religion of joy. Christ came to take away our sins, to roll off our curse, to unbind our chains, to open our prison house, to cancel our debt; in a word, to give us the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Is not this joy? Where can we find a joy so real, so deep, so pure, so lasting? There is every element of joy – deep, ecstatic, satisfying, sanctifying joy – in the gospel of Christ. The believer in Jesus is essentially a happy man. The child of God is, from necessity, a joyful man. His sins are forgiven, his soul is justified, his person is adopted, his trials are blessings, his conflicts are victories, his death is immortality, his future is a heaven of inconceivable, unthought-of, untold, and endless blessedness. With such a God, such a Saviour, and such a hope, is he not, ought he not, to be a joyful man?
Lord God, let your blessing come upon us with the lighting of this candle of JOY. May its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation, in this time of darkness. Now we watch and wait for his coming. Amen.